The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
I remember, in the time before I got into movies, seeing snippets of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly on TV and wondering why it was dubbed. It wasn't like the Chinese kung fu movies or the Japanese monster movies I'd also watch. It was obvious the actors in those movies weren't speaking English, hence the dubbed voices. In this movie, though, while I was no lip reader, it sure looked like everyone was speaking English. So why did their lip movements not match up perfectly with the audio track?
Clearly this was long before I had ever heard the phrase "spaghetti western."
Sergio Leone is rightly revered for making some of the most iconic westerns of all time, films that redefined the genre and made a superstar out of Clint Eastwood, but did you know he only directed seven movies total? The Italian, the son of a director and an actress, toiled as an AD for many years in Italy and the US before switching to screenwriting, and ultimately, directing. There were precedents for westerns made in Italy and the rest of Europe, but when Leone made A Fistful of Dollars in 1964, that was when the sub-genre busted wide open.
I saw A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and GBU during my video store days, as well as Once Upon a Time in the West, but one day I'd like to see any of them on a big screen. My new flatscreen TV is big, and it provides a measure of the grandeur of the movie's sprawling mountain vistas and desert terrains, but this was shot in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That's wide, folks. I mean hella wide. A film like this kinda demands to be seen the way the director intended.
As enjoyable as GBU is, it's really long. I think last week was the first time I had seen the whole thing through, start to finish. By the time Blondie and Tuco reach the bridge and the Union soldiers, I was beginning to zone out. When Tuco runs through the cemetery, the spinning camera shots are long and practically vertigo-inducing. And the final showdown between Blondie, Tuco and Angel Eyes is dragged out to an almost ridiculous length. All those shots of their eyes in super close-up, over and over - oy!
What makes all that enjoyable, though, is the distinctive music of Ennio Morricone. Melodramatic, yet emotional, memorable and sweeping, it's everything you want a film score to be. The tension in the final standoff is induced by the music, as it gets higher and more intense, waiting for someone to shoot somebody. It's marvelous.
Is Blondie really "good"? He runs a scam on people, one that puts his partner Tuco in serious danger every time. Then he betrays Tuco for no good reason. Is it any wonder Tuco wants revenge? I would say Leone was being ironic with that title, but this doesn't strike me as that kind of movie.